The case was adjourned. The defendants are due to appear again
at Norwich Magistrates' Court on Thursday 7th September.
Turkey Cruelty Workers Sentenced
An animal welfare charity called today for a Government inquiry into the poultry industry after a court heard two staff at a Bernard Matthews plant played “baseball” with live turkeys.
Turkey catchers Daniel Palmer, 27, and Neil Allen, 30, both of Dereham, Norfolk, were secretly filmed hitting birds with a pole at the Bernard Matthews plant in Haveringland, Norfolk.
Both admitted ill treatment and were ordered to carry out 200 hours of community service.
Their lawyer told magistrates in Norwich that Palmer and Allen - who no longer work for Bernard Matthews -
were influenced by ‘peer pressure’ and part of a ‘culture’ at the plant.
An RSPCA inspector said it was the worst case of cruelty to farm animals he had heard of and added that the poultry industry was under pressure to improve welfare standards.
The organisation, which secretly filmed the abuse, said people would be ‘horrified’ by the reality of factory farming.
Wendy Valentine, founder of the Hillside Animal Sanctuary, based near Norwich, said she would like to see a Government minister order an inquiry into the industry today.
Bernard Matthews said it would make a statement later. A spokesman said the company was committed to the ‘highest standards’ of animal welfare.
Prosecutor Jonathan Eales said Palmer and Allen were filmed by a Hillside investigator, who had gone to the plant because of general concerns about bird welfare, in April.
“He (the investigator) heard Allen say ‘you throw them and I’ll hit them’,” said Mr Eales.
“They were using poles which they had been using to help them round up the turkeys and they were using them like
a baseball bat.”
He said at least three turkeys were abused. Their carcasses were not recovered.
A vet who saw the footage said it was the ‘most hideous and blatant’ abuse he had seen in 25 years, said Mr Eales.
Simon Nicholls, for Palmer and Allen, said both men were of previous good character and full of ‘remorse’.
He said they were influenced by ‘peer pressure’ at the plant.
“In this type of environment the one thing you cannot do is step outside what everyone else is doing,” he told the court.
“It was a culture these two became involved in.”
Mr Nicholls said the footage - shown in court - revealed the “appalling” conditions at the plant.
“You can see why people move to an organic, more open type of farming rather than this appalling type of environment,”
“You can imagine working in that kind of environment on a long-term basis. It must be really quite awful.” RSPCA inspector Rob Melloy said outside court: “I have never come across anything like this before with farmed animals. They were clearly treated in a brutal, inhuman way.”
He said the RSPCA often investigated complaints about poultry farms and was pressurising the industry to raise standards.
“It is not a very nice environment. We are aware that people have concerns about the way poultry are treated and moved.
“We are putting pressure on the industry to try and improve standards.”
He went on: “If people have evidence that poultry is being mistreated, we will investigate.”
Calling for government intervention, Ms Valentine added: “I would like to see a minister stand up today and announce an inquiry into welfare standards in the poultry industry. “It is not just Bernard Matthews. But it won’t happen.
“We would also like to see the law applied more rigorously. We have some of the best animal welfare laws in the world. But they are not being applied often enough.
“People would be horrified if they saw the reality of factory farms. You cannot describe the environment.
“We don’t tell people not to eat meat or to boycott Bernard Matthews in particular but ask them to think about the conditions these animals live in. We present the evidence of the immense animal suffering that goes on behind the closed doors of the factory farming industry so that people can make an informed choice not to support such a cruel system by choosing with compassion the type of food they put on their plates.